Expect the Unexpected at Open Mic Night
By Doug Carroll
If you don’t know what to expect from an open-mic night, then that’s why you should go to one — and it’s why you will stay glued to your seat.
In fact, Jason Lalli would rather call it an open-mind night.
Lalli, only 28 but a veteran of the arts scene in Phoenix, will serve as host of GCU’s first-ever Open Mic Night on Thursday, April 28. The event, co-sponsored by Herd on Campus and the Poetry Club, will take place on the Slab behind the Student Union.
Registration for performers is at 6:30 p.m., with the show starting at 7. GCU students, faculty and staff are encouraged to turn out and perform.
Lalli — it’s pronounced “Lolly,” and he prefers to be known by just that name — recently wrapped up a one-year run with Infuse, a popular open mic at the Phoenix Art Museum. With him as host, Infuse regularly drew more than two dozen performers and a crowd of 250 as part of the monthly First Fridays.
Before that, Lalli hosted an outdoor open mic along Mill Avenue in Tempe. He has been a participant in similar gatherings for nearly five years.
With its creative stew of musicians, poets, writers and other acts, an open mic’s sheer unpredictability is its allure. Over the course of a couple of hours, the audience can never be certain of what’s coming next.
“You’re not going to like everybody,” Lalli says, “but there’s always somebody new coming up, and that somebody might take your breath away. This opens minds, and I think it even makes people more tolerant.”
Lalli orders the show from the list of those who have signed up. There are always regulars and new faces. He tries to alternate musicians and poets, to avoid too much of one thing.
Beyond that, it’s in the hands of the performers. Depending on the number signing up, they are allowed to do one or two pieces each.
“I perform briefly at the beginning,” Lalli says, “because I want people to be in tune with the energy of the scene. My intro piece tells you what you’ll get. I always ask two questions of the audience: Are you ready to explore the art of self-expression? And, are you ready to remove your judgments and respect uncensored opinions?”
Wondering if you’ve got the right stuff? Well, don’t. Lalli has seen and heard it all, from 11-year-old schoolgirl poets to 30-year-old Christian rappers to 70-year-old harmonica players.
“It takes courage to get up onstage and expose your heart,” he says. “What makes a good show is not the talent. It’s the energy of the audience and the artists. When (the artists) are onstage and it’s undeniable that they’re exposing their heart, that’s a good show.”
Lalli says there never was an incident at Infuse during its stint at the Art Museum. He expects the same at GCU.
“When there’s positive energy going on,” he says, “people with negative energy know they’re not welcome. It makes them feel uncomfortable.”
He says that those who arrive with an open mind might leave with a changed life. Several years ago at an open mic in Scottsdale, he says he did.
“I learned the power of gaining perspective,” Lalli says. “You can become a much more well-rounded person when you listen. A lot of us call this ‘church.’ You become connected to a purer spirit when you see what’s within people.
“It’s all about touching one person. If you can do that, it’s worth it.”
For more information on GCU’s Open Mic Night, call Zane Ewton at 602.639.7086 or email him at [email protected]. Lalli says his custom is to video the show and then make it available to the performers.